I was recently asked to speak to a class of entrepreneurs at my alma mater The University of Missouri. I was thrilled to head back to Mizzou (at Columbia) to share my decades-long knowledge with the budding entrepreneurs about online marketing.

I was a great experience for me to see so many young people filled with ideas and the entrepreneurial bug. I also love that Mizzou is among those college and universities recognizing how important it is to nurture and teach those that want to start their own businesses. This seems to be a growing trend in higher-education and one that I whole-heartedly support.

The Entrepreneur Alliance was implemented in the fall of 2011 to develop entrepreneurial students. While most programs are business incubators, MU envisioned a talent incubator that produces students skilled in entrepreneurship, or intrapreneurship, with the communication skills and business planning process knowledge combined with the drive to act. While students still pursue entrepreneurial coursework, the EA complements that learning by focusing on skill development and personal growth.

The Entrepreneurial Alliance is an initiative designed to foster a culture of innovation at MU. The movement is motivated by students who see the value in entrepreneurship and is fueled by business leaders who know that growth during a down economy depends on startups.

Of course, back in the day there were no such classes and the thought of being an entrepreneur was not necessarily encouraged. Launching a start-up was pretty much all trial and error. Although being an entrepreneur still requires those hardy folks to do it, live it and breathe it, the basic challenges can be overcome more easily with the practical advice and wisdom of those that have already been there.

This educational process is creating a better group of more well-rounded entrepreneurs that have a more in depth sense of what it takes to run a business. Of course, they still have to have the ideas and the drive, but at least they are not flying blind.

My talk was a general overview of the opportunities that exist in online marketing including some data about the size of the market, penetration of ecommerce sites, growth forecasts and the benefits of fully understanding how to leverage online marketing to maximize sales and branding opportunities.

I focused on the diversity of online marketing options including:

  • Paid Search (SEM, PPC)
  • Organic Search (SEO, Organic)
  • Email
  • Affiliate
  • Marketplace (Amazon, EBay)
  • Comparison Shopping Engines (CSE)
  • Mobile (Smartphone, Tablet, Phablet)
  • Flash Sale Sites (Groupon, LivingSocial, HauteLook)
  • Content Marketing (Blogs, Product Reviews, Testimonials)
  • Social (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest)
  • Retargeting (Content, Search, Social)
  • Public Relations
  • Video (YouTube)

In addition, I also wanted to convey why there are so many ecommerce opportunities such as:

  • Low Cost of Entry
  • Ease of deploying sophisticated tools
  • Diversity of the online buyer
  • Reach- Local, National and International
  • Ease of buying online
  • Opportunity to disrupt embedded competition
  • Dropshipping facilitates many online businesses

I heard some really great ideas and hope that these young entrepreneurs continue on their path to success. I also hope that in some small way I was able to inspire and enlighten them on their journey.